April 16, 2010

New Wave of Lender Foreclosures Threatens Community Associations

According to a recent industry report, the number of U.S. homes taken over by banks jumped 35 percent in the first quarter from a year ago. If the current pace of foreclosures continues, more than one million homes will be seized this year. Rick Sharga, a senior executive at RealtyTrac, Inc., indicated that banks are beginning to work their way through the backlog of distressed properties and predicted that the pace of lender foreclosures will accelerate in the months ahead.

If a Washington condominium or homeowners association receives a notice of default or a notice of trustee’s sale with regard to a delinquent unit, it should take prompt action to record a lien on the property and notify the trustee of its interest. Once these initial steps have been taken, the board should evaluate whether it should establish a receivership over the property or pursue a personal lawsuit against the owner in advance of the trustee’s sale.

If an owner's lender completes a foreclosure, the association’s lien for delinquent assessments will be mostly or completely erased. If a limited priority lien remains on the property after the foreclosure, the association can ask the new owner to pay it. The association can also obtain a personal judgment against the former owner for the full amount of the debt and pursue garnishment remedies.

Aggressive legal action to collect a debt can produce results even with a lender foreclosure on the horizon, but this is not always the appropriate response. In some circumstances, the best course of action may be to simply wait for a lender’s foreclosure to occur.